1. How the Constitution provides for a system of separation of powers and checks and balances
A constitution is a document containing laws that govern a state or organization. The constitution documents branches which are as a result of mans’ desire of separation of powers. The term ‘separation of power’ or ‘trias politica’ was created by Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de Bredet et de Montesquieu who was a French Social and political philosopher. He wrote Spirit of the Laws, a book that is considered the greatest account of political theory and jurisprudence. This book inspired the declaration of the Constitution of the United States. The United States constitution contains principles that outline how power is shared among the arms of the state which is outlined in Article I, II and III. These branches are the legislature, executive and the judiciary. In order to ensure that the branches don’t misuse their power or dominate over each other a system of Checks and Balances exists to encourage accountability. The role of each branch is outlined in the constitution.
In United States Constitution, the part of the Legislature is outlined in Article I. The senate and the House of Representatives make up the Legislature. The members of the House of Representatives are chosen by people of different States. Two Senators from each State form the Senate. The role of the Legislature is to make laws and appropriate budget. To ensure Check of Balance on the Executive, the legislature has the power to impeach the President, override Presidential vetoes, declare war and approve appointment of departmental heads. Legislature has the power to remove judges who misuse powers and set courts inferior to the Supreme Court to check the Judiciary.
The second branch of the state is the executive. Its role is documented in Article II of the Constitution. The executive is consisted of the President and the Vice-Present who are chosen by people of all States to serve a four year term. The Executive implements and administers policies enacted and funded by the Legislature. The President is the Chief Executive. He also has the Chief Command of the Armed Forces. For Checks and Balances on the Legislature, bills can be vetoed by the president who is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The president appoints judicial judges and pardons their power.
Judiciary is third branch of the United States Government. It is stipulated in Article III of the Constitution. It consists of the Supreme Court and Federal Courts. The role of the judiciary is interpretation of the Constitution and laws. For the Checks and Balance system on the Executive, the judiciary carries out legal analysis and during presidential impeachment trial the chief justice presides over the senate. On the legislature, judiciary carries out judicial review.
2. Describe how a bill becomes a law at the national level
A bill is a proposed legislation by a member of a governmental institution (the congress) or non-governmental institution (lobbyists, corporations and citizens). A bill undergoes several steps before it is approved as law. A law is a rule that regulates one’s actions and conduct usually. For a bill to become law, it is first introduced to the Congress. The presiding officer of both houses announces the bill. The bill is identified with a number and printed. The presiding officer of the Senate then assigns the bill to a committee. The committees address general topics such as finance, military and tourism. Some have sub-committees, for example, a committee of finance may have sub-committees such as pay and retirement. The sub-committee and/ or the full committee may hold scheduled hearings to discuss merits of the bill and amend the bill. After hearings, the full committee votes for passing of the amended bill. The majority vote wins. If the vote fails, the bill dies and cannot go any further. If the vote is a success, the committee the compiles a report that documents reasons for favor of the bill by the committee and their desire to see the amendments upheld. The report alongside with the bill is then referred to the full house by the committee.
At the floor of the houses, the bill undergoes the following process. The bill is reviewed on the identified calendar date in the House and the Senate. During this date, the bill is first read out to the members. The members then hold discussion on the bill based on the committee amendments and referrals on a set time limit. The bill is read again when discussion ends. Members then vote for the bill. Voting can only occur with a full quorum of 218 members. If a quorum is not taken the voting is adjourned for the next day. If the two houses come up with the same amended bill without any controversial differences, it is then taken to the president. If there are controversies, the bill is taken to the Conference Committee. Senior representatives from the two houses form Conference committee whose aim is to settle the differences in the bill of the two houses. They amend the bills, vote them and compile a report on their approval. The amended bills are then taken to the houses for re-voting. If the majority wins, the bill is then taken to the president for signing.
A bill can only become law when it is signed by the president within 10 days excluding Sundays. The president reviews it and signs it or fails to sign it. In the failure to sign, the bill becomes a veto that is sent back to the Congress. If the congress overrides the veto by two-thirds majority vote, it becomes a law without the signature of the president. The law is then passed to the Archivist of the United States who assigns it a number and finally it is published in the United States Statute.
Hall, Daniel, Constitutional Law, Lawyers Cooperative publishing Albany, NY, 1997
Mahler, Gregory, Comparative Politics, Prentice Hall, 2000
James Burns, Peltason J.W and Thomas Cronin, Government by the People, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984
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